For many, Senna remains the greatest F1 driver
Genius of late Brazilian discussed as Hamilton chases two unique marks this weekend
The name Ayrton Senna has been all over the news over the last week.
The late Brazilian died tragically in a deadly crash at Imola in 1994 but, 21 years later, Lewis Hamilton has resurrected Senna ahead of the Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix, as he chases two marks belonging to the legend over the next two days.
Mercedes star Hamilton is aiming for an eighth successive pole position at the end of qualifying tonight to match Senna's world record, and he is also going for win No. 41 here tomorrow to move alongside his idol.
After posting seven wins out of 12 races, championship leader Hamilton has the momentum, and the car, to pull it off and he will almost certainly negotiate the remaining six races successfully to land a third world title in Abu Dhabi.
There is no question the Briton is among the top drivers of his generation.
But, for many in the paddock, Senna remains the best Formula 1 pilot of them all.
Claire Williams, deputy team principal of Williams, says simply "attacking" statistics is not the way to measure the true standard of a driver.
She knew Senna as her father, Sir Frank Williams, gave the Brazilian his break in Formula 1 in the early 1980s as a test driver for the team.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, Claire, 39, said: "I don't think just surpassing a statistic-whether the number of races won or entered - means they are overtaking Ayrton in terms of being a great Formula 1 driver.
"What separates Senna from the rest is that he was a great thinker.
"His intelligence away from the race track was one of his greatest strengths and enabled him to be a great driver inside the cockpit, as well."
Senna's genius saw him win three world titles and set all number of records, including six wins at the Monaco Grand Prix, a street race like Singapore.
Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, whose career spanned 21 years, eclipsed most of Senna's marks, but fell one shot of his six Monaco victories, including an incredible five straight from 1989 to 1993.
The feeling is the Brazilian would have dominated the Marina Bay circuit, as well, because of his supreme skill at negotiating devilishly tight, twisty and bumpy tracks.
Veteran Formula 1 journalist, Fredrik Petersens, who has been covering the sport since the mid-1970s, said: "Senna was the consummate racing driver. He would have been unbeatable in Singapore, because he had the ability to adapt to track environments and that is what made him great.
"Whether it was in the wet or dry, street circuit or closed track, Senna would be at his best."
Frank Williams was able to sign his favourite only in 1994, the year Senna died at the San Marino Grand Prix.
That meant his career spanned only 10 years, while Hamilton, only 30, is into his eighth season.
Petersens believes Senna's brilliance will forever be unmatched.
"Whatever sport it is, there is only one Senna, like there is only one Roger Federer in tennis.
"For anyone to say that Hamilton is a new Senna is totally wrong.
"You also cannot compare them because they were driving in two different eras.
"And that does not also make Ferrari's four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel a greater driver just because he has more world titles.
"No question about it, Senna is the best driver we've ever had."
AYRTON SENNA STATS
- Racing career: 1984 to 1994
- World champion: 1988, 1990, 1991
- Number of races: 161
- Wins: 41
- Pole positions: 65
- Podium places: 80
- Fastest laps: 19
- Teams: Toleman (1984), Lotus (1985 to 1987), McLaren (1988 to 1993), Williams (1994).
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